My best friend, Jessica, came with me to give out the journals right before Christmas.
I braced Jessica before she came that the student have never really been taught how to express gratitude and might appear rude and unappreciative. My mentor teacher told me earlier, “this is something that they will look back on when their older and appreciate.”
We were both dead wrong. Though very few of them said a typical “thank-you” they were clearly so thankful. One of my student, D., in the middle of the period after he received his journal, left the school grounds, ran full speed past security, ran to a gas station and bought me a chocolate bar. When he ran back into class I asked him if he was okay because he was sweating and looked like he was about to pass out. He just reached his hand in his jacket and said, “I got you this, Ms. B” and handed me the Hershey chocolate bar.
There were so many heart-warming moments to watch that day. Jessica said it was quite the picture to see one of my large dread-heads taking the time to tie his twine bow back around journals. When the students couldn’t read my hand-writing, they would shoot up their hand and ask me to read it because they were so eager to see what I wrote. These are the little ways I could tell how grateful they were.
For many of these students who live in cramped-living situations in the project, this will be their one and only space to be creative.
I told them that the gift was brought about by my high school friend reading their stories on my blog. I didn’t want them to just see the journals as a random donation from a rich white person somewhere far off. I wanted them to feel they earned the journals because of their hard work and the help of a friend. I told them that my “best friend from high school” was inspired by their creativity and wanted to give them a space to write.
They are slowly realizing their writing holds power, not just for a good grade, but for social action in the world. It’s a start.